Encountering Fursaxa for the first time is somewhat akin to walking into the healing tent at Glastonbury. Warm voices encompass you, while mystical sounding instruments trill in the background. This image is not dispelled by the second track which pulses on the most skeletal of backdrops which sees elements get slowly introduced as the track progresses. It’s an unusual track to say the least, but it carries a strange other-worldly beautiful and it is refreshingly different from any of the releases which come our way in the normal run of things.
Of course, it’s hard tom imagine Fursaxa being anything else, considering it is the brain child of Tara Burke, a US-born artist who has been making music since a young age and whose influences have seen her compared to seminal artist Nico. Thus ‘Mycorrhizae Realm’ is a burst of joyous, unusual, folk inflected, psychedelic music that draws comparisons to new-age music, folk and Swans side-project World of Skin, particularly on Celosia, which sees Tara’s tuneful, yet raw voice set to a musical backdrop that only just maintains any sort of coherence at all. ‘Sunhead bowed’ by contrast is a fragile tune picked out on an acoustic guitar. It’s a track that is both vulnerable yet confident and it highlights the quality of Tara’s voice. ‘Charlote’ is a lengthy track (almost nine minutes) that builds slowly out of a delicate riff and sees multi-tracked voices and plucked instruments building a lament that would perfectly soundtrack the death of the tragic Ophelia in Hamlet with its old-world feel and beautiful melody. Final track ‘Ode to goliards’ is less successful, however, with the vocal harmonies not working as well as its creators must imagine. It has a Jarboe feel, but where she manages to take the most unhinged melodies and make them work, here it works rather less well, which is a pity because for the most part this is a charming, beautiful and unaffected album.
It’s hard to know how to conclude this review. Certainly this is not music that many of our readers would necessarily take to, but on the other hand it is a skilled, unique and often beautiful ride into unknown pastures. For my own part I am not too keen on the first or last tracks, finding the former to be slightly misleading as to the true content of the album and the latter a disappointing end to what is, otherwise, a fantastic collection of songs. For the adventurous, this is something you should experience at least once for it falls so far outside the realms of mainstream music as to defy any sort of easy categorisation, but it might be advisable to ‘try before you buy’ with this one as it is something of an acquired taste. Nonetheless this is an attractive album which will find a small, but avid following.